Click on images for bigger picture!
This was the second playtest for SUNDER THE STARS held 3 weeks ago. In play were the optional terrain items - a large planet, small moon and various gas clouds - and the optional shield settings - double front, double back and maximum. There were 4 players: Bryan, Rob, Jason and Ricardo, with this humble narrator as referee. The players formed two teams, selecting one member of each team as "commander", and each player had 50 points of ships command.
Fleet commander Rob and future Hero of Terra (posthumously) Bryan each took a taskforce from The Grand Terran Imperium, consisting of one medium cruiser, two destroyers and two frigates.
Jarl Jason and shipmaster Ricardo took their forces from The League of the Star Wolves: one medium cruiser, two destroyers and two frigates for Ricardo and a battleship, one medium cruiser and two frigates for Jason.
The table was set up lengthwise, allowing plenty of room for maneuvering before hostilities could commence. The moon and planet did not figure into their tactics as both were at the extreme ends of the table. In the game they were impassible areas that spell instant annihilation for any spacecraft that entered their space/hex.
Both sides took advantage of the optional shield settings and locked them on double front. That doubled the shield value against all attacks from the front 180°, but defending against attacks from the rear would not get the benefit of shields in the defense rolls.
The gas clouds, however, had been embraced by Commodore Rob. Get used to seeing his ships there. They impart a -1 to hit modifier for every hex/2" fired through.
:[Ricardo shows off his hyper-dimensional jazz hands.]:
Commodore Rob also employed a unique tactic for his flagship:
:[Hyper-dimensional jazz hands does have a price. It took weeks for Ricardo's fingers to return to their natural color]:
Jarl Jason and his staunch ally Ricardo continued their advance. Their missing frigate and two other ships with damage tracking dice told of their losses.
Bryan's force had been reduced to a cruiser and a destroyer, and Ricardo's forces had been whittled down to just a cruiser, while Jarl Jason's remaining battleship and cruiser try to attack Rob's forces still hiding in the gas cloud. Please note the location of Rob's flagship. To the left. No, farther. All the way over there.
Ricardo's cruiser was not long for this battle.
All the while, Commodore Rob's flagship was doing donuts in its very own private gas cloud. Understandably, Jarl Jason was taunting him mercilessly to come out and fight him. As this was not a dark ages infantry battle, Rob ignored him.
Ricardo had been slain! Long will they sing his saga into the night. Jarl Jason swung his remaining ships around the gas cloud to minimize its interference. Meanwhile, pizza had been delivered to Rob's flagship.
Jason's cruiser got behind Bryan's cruiser and took advantage of its double front shield setting. Bryan is down to a destroyer. Having finished his pizza, Rob's flagship barrels forward to see what all the hubbub was about.
Sacrificing his cruiser, Jarl Jason managed to sink the remaining Wedgian destroyers and one of the frigates. This shall be the final blow to defend the Star Wolves' way of life!
Or not. In a blaze of direct fire and homing weapons, the flagship of Jarl Jason was sunk. With the skies cleared of opponents, Commodore Rob dictated a quick eulogy for Captain Bryan to be sent to his surviving family.
The optional shield setting rules worked as expected, but will lengthen the game by about 50%. Four players with 50 points of ships each should take about two hours - this took almost three. The players liked the option, but agreed it made for longer games.
I thought that terrain would also greatly lengthen the game, but later playtests disproved this.
Point defense will have a smaller area of effect when in terrain that grants a cover bonus like gas clouds, dust clouds and asteroid fields.
The use of tactical reserves and exploiting any available cover are perfectly valid and both can effect the outcome of a battle. Ignore them at your peril.
SUNDER THE STARS is still doing what is asked of it, so development will continue.
The game mat and ships used for the Grand Terran Imperium are from the Terran Federation range, part of the Galactic Knights line produced by Monday Knight Productions.
The ships used for the League of the Star Wolves are available from Ravenstar Studios.
Additional shots of both sets of ships may be seen here: Starship Size Comparison.